January 28, 2014

Isles Fall Flat as Bruins Pounce on Miscues in 6-3 Win

The Isles small rut continued as they dropped their third straight game, falling in a back-and-forth game that the Bruins ended up having the last laugh in. They had lots of trouble, particularly when it came to trying to contain the line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith. Marchand lead the way with four points.

Matt Martin was clearly not happy with his, or his lines performance against Marchand's line in particular, not to mention for the entire Bruins team. Martin, Colin McDonald and Casey Cizikas combined for a -10 rating on the night.

"They're a speedy line, they had a couple of bounces. As a line we were on for three or four goals against and that obviously can't happen."

Chara, Marchand and the B's had their way. Photo by C. Hessel
Jack Capuano downplayed the fact that this line stood out, stating that it was pretty even throughout the Bruins line-up. But you can't deny that the most effective chances Boston got came from the goal line plays that this line ran every time they were out there.

Smith scored a goal when Shawn Thornton threw a puck at the far post from his half wall and caught Matt Carkner sleeping on the job for what ended up being an easy goal. Carl Soderberg scored when Thomas Hickey stumbled after failing to knock an airborne puck down and Soderberg had it relatively easy by that point.

It wasn't all bad for the Isles, who were able to answer each of the Bruins goals until Soderberg did his damage, which came in the final minute of the second period. First and foremost, Lubomir Visnovsky and Evgeni Nabokov both returned from their injuries. For Visnovsky it was a long time coming, and I'd expect it'll take some time for him to completely shake the rust out of his game which we saw at a couple of points in this one. Nabokov unexpectedly got into the game with 11 minutes left, finishing the game for Kevin Poulin who didn't have his finest night, although about half of it was because of the team play in front of him.

Frans Nielsen lifted the puck over Chad Johnson for his goal, which came off of his own rebound on a great chance thanks in part to Kyle Okposo. Okposo had a three point night, including a goal of his own after a 2-on-0 break with Michael Grabner right after his penalty had expired. Okposo's goal would answer Smith's to tie the game at three.

Grabner also had a goal, scoring in the slot area on a nice pass by Okposo. What was more impressive here however was that Hickey was brought down, and from the ground with a delayed penalty set to be called he still managed to somehow get the puck to Okposo at the side of the net. It was a great tic-tac-toe play that was essentially created from what looked to be a dead play heading into a powerplay.

Speaking of the man advantage, the Isles left a lot to be desired here. After getting grossly outshot early in the first, they had several attempts on their first powerplay in the game and created some great pressure but it ultimately didn't lead to much. The hope was that this would be an encouraging sign for the Isles on future chances but Johnson and the Bruins kept things to the outside for the most part and didn't give the Isles much to work with. At the same time the Isles didn't do themselves many favors, and had some turnovers that lead to easy Bruin clears.

It was another rough game for Josh Bailey, who had a noticeably weak effort after Grabner's goal. It really killed the momentum for the Isles at that moment as he was easily knocked off the puck, hesitating enough to let Bruin defenders swarm him. Andrew MacDonald also had another rough night and had a turnover that lead to a Bruins rush and ultimately, a goal. Certainly, the 4th line was not all it could have been either and when you're facing a team as big and strong as the Bruins you need those muscle lines to step up. We'll chalk this one up as "one of those games" for a 4th line that's been relatively strong in recent games.

With the Isles not doing themselves any favors, now they'll have a tough test as they face off with the Rangers in the next two games for a very huge four point swing. Somehow, someway the Isles will have to look past all of the hype and emerge with points.

"We have to put it behind us as a team," Martin stated to me after. "This is four huge points for us, and we're trying to catch teams like the Rangers. We have to be ready as a team, as a line and bounce back."

Peter Regin is encouraged by the Isles recently play against their rivals and was optimistic they could keep their heads straight for these next few days. "There's going to be a lot of energy, a lot of excitement. Hopefully we can look past the whole experience (outdoors) and make sure we concentrate on the tasks."

"It's two big games, we need to get four points to stay in this."

If the Isles can stick to this philosophy and get back to what makes them successful then they definitely will be able to stay in the race. But will they be able to get past the atmosphere that comes with playing the outdoor game?

We'll see.

- Chris

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